Monday 11 December 2017

'Sunday Times' fails to say if it supports letter for Humphries

David Walsh wrote reference for paedophile Tom Humphries
David Walsh wrote reference for paedophile Tom Humphries
Shane Phelan

Shane Phelan

'The Sunday Times' has failed to say whether it condones the supply of a reference letter written by sports journalist David Walsh for child sex abuser Tom Humphries.

The testimonial from 'The Sunday Times' chief sports writer was handed in to a court earlier this week as shocking details emerged of how Humphries groomed and defiled a teenage girl.

The letter, and another written by a former inter-county hurling star, led to concerns being expressed by Rape Crisis Networks Ireland about the practice of submitting reference letters in such cases.

Neither Mr Walsh, who became one of the most high-profile sports journalists in the world after exposing cyclist Lance Armstrong as a doping cheat, nor the former hurling star have responded to requests for comment.

However, a source said Mr Walsh's letter was supplied prior to Humphries pleading guilty to two counts of engaging in a sexual act with a girl under the age of 17 and four counts of sexually exploiting the same child.

A representative for the press office of 'The Sunday Times' in London said the newspaper was "looking into" the matter, but it has yet to issue any statement.

It is understood the newspaper believes Mr Walsh acted in a personal capacity and that it is not a matter for it to comment on.

The editor of 'The Sunday Times' Ireland edition, Frank Fitzgibbon, declined to comment to the Irish Independent yesterday. Earlier this week he said he was unaware of any testimonial and that his edition of the newspaper did not have a chief sports writer.

Mr Walsh appears regularly in the Irish edition's sports pages. He also won an Irish newspaper industry award in 2013 for his work in exposing Armstrong's doping.

Humphries's offences occurred in 2010 and 2011.

Gardaí first began investigating Humphries, a former sports writer with the 'Irish Times', in March 2011 and arrested him in September 2012.

He pleaded guilty to the offences last March following a lengthy investigation and a number of delays with his trial.

On Tuesday, his counsel, Hugh Hartnett SC, told Dublin Circuit Criminal Court he was submitting "a letter from the chief sports writer of 'The Sunday Times'". He said it referred to Humphries's career "and that he was a hugely regarded, hugely respected, national figure".

Mr Walsh has previously lauded Humphries, singling him out for praise in his book 'Seven Deadly Sins: My Pursuit of Lance Armstrong', published in December 2012. In the book he wrote of being inspired by Humphries's work, describing him as "by some distance, the most talented sports writer I've ever read. A fine man, too".

The letter from the hurler was also handed in to Judge Karen O'Connor on Tuesday. Mr Hartnett said it detailed voluntary work Humphries did. The barrister said the GAA figure was "extremely shocked and disappointed" by what had happened.

Humphries was reported to gardaí after his family discovered sexually explicit text messages on one of his old phones. Judge O'Connor will pass sentence later this month.

Irish Independent

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